In the interest of frugality, and not just some innate compulsion (someone I know might disagree), I save all kindsa scraps. Stored in a plastic bag in the freezer, my collection can include everything from the usual meat trimmings, bones, onion ends, carrot tops and leek greens, to rejected apple and pear chunks, parsley, celery and mushroom stems, gingerroot parings, fresh fennel prunings, and the occasional fresh dill snippings. I let my stash grow until, much like the Blob, my bag refuses to fit into its quarters and the other frozen residents lemming out onto the floor. Then I make homemade stock. I’m not brewing a French mother sauce here, so my cavalier method serves our kitchen well.
SLOW COOKER STOCK yield varies
- 6-quart or so slow cooker
- biggish bag of scraps. Meat scraps contribute a more savory taste to your jus.
- bay leaf
- a couple whole garlic cloves, maybe a sprig or two of fresh thyme. A few peppercorns and a clove are fine.
Put all the ingredients into your slow cooker. You’ll need enough scraps to fill your crock to the brim. If your trimmings are frozen, keep in mind that they’ll shrink down as they thaw, so don’t be afraid to pack ’em in. Pour in enough water to just cover your clippings, put the lid on the cooker and turn it on to High. If the weather’s hot, don’t forget to set your stock project outside in a safe spot, to keep that heat where it belongs. Let it cook for about an hour, then lower the heat setting to LOW, and just let it simmer about 12 hours, give or take a couple hours. It should smell terrific!
When the time’s up, strain your stock. If you have pets, at this point they will be keenly interested in your work. Actually the aroma of the bubbling broth will have already driven them to following you around the house all day. Depending on the species, they may stare at you with pleading eyes, or constantly rub against your legs. That’s love!
I use a large colander set over a bowl to first spoon out the large pieces. Then I pour the remaining liquid through a fine mesh sieve—actually I use a splatter screen, a cheap choice you can find at most any thrift store.
Let your broth cool to close to room temperature. The wider your bowl (or other vessel—I sometimes use a couple of aluminum roasting pans to speed things up), the quicker the cooling. If your house isn’t frigid, get a fan blowing on your bowl. When your distillation is ready for refrigeration, lay a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the liquid. After chilling in the fridge, the fat that has risen to the top will adhere (mostly) to the wrap and you can peel it off. I normally save this fat for cooking. Poultry fat lends great taste to stir-fries. And of course, if you’ve included some fatty ham bits in your infusion, you know what cured pork fat can do for your cooking!
You can use your broth right away, or store it for a few days in the coldest part of your refrigerator. I usually pack my stock into containers and put them in the freezer. Honey, I shrunk the Blob!